Just as the initial shock of Terry Francona's departure as Red Sox manager began to subside, the turmoil started again with the news of Theo Epstein’s potential hiring by the Chicago Cubs. Both of these departures come amidst a media feeding frenzy as more details about the alleged problems in the clubhouse are leaked by anonymous sources.
No matter how that all shakes out, the Red Sox are still faced with the problem of hiring a new on-field manager. And throwing Francona under the bus (as management seems to be doing) will not make that quest any easier.
National pundits have bandied well-known names such as Bobby Valentine, Joe Torre and even Tony LaRussa. The New England press take seems to favor lesser-known individuals, primarily those with success at the minor league level.
But what about the elephant in the room?
If a clubhouse problem—especially among veteran pitchers—led to Francona’s inability to get the effort and results desired, how will that problem be solved by bringing in a no-name newcomer with even less street cred or clout than Francona?
I tested this theory with former Red Sox pitcher Dick Drago.
He told me, “Really strong teams, like the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati and even the Red Sox a few years ago had veteran players who stood up and were not afraid to call someone out—rookie or veteran—if he was not pulling his weight.”
Drago added, "If the players did not step up, and there is a problem in the clubhouse, then they need a manager who was a former major league player with enough stature to at least get the attention of everyone in the clubhouse.”
I get his point; it’s similar to the military. Those of us going into combat felt better if those leading us had already experienced a taste of battle.
The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to have found such an individual in Kirk Gibson, who commands automatic respect for the way he played the game himself. Gibson also surrounded himself with a coaching staff made up of former players, such as Don Baylor, Alan Trammell, Matt Williams, Eric Young and Ian Kennedy who could certainly provide clubhouse leadership as well as a link between players and management.
Pursuing this line of reasoning, we went through a list of former players to identify those who might be able to bridge a similar gap in Beantown. We eliminated candidates with known hair-trigger tempers, as well as a few who might see themselves as a bigger story than the team. We also eliminated some (like Tony Gwynn, Carlton Fisk and Robin Yount) whom we believed would be impossible to pry away from their current pursuits.)
Here are eight possibilities who deserve a look, in inverse order of ranking: